BEIJING – China on Tuesday condemned a telephone call between Czech President-elect Petr Pavel and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, saying that Mr Pavel had ignored Beijing’s repeated attempts at dissuasion.
The phone call on Monday was a diplomatic breakthrough for the China-claimed island, which has no formal relations with Prague.
“Czech President-elect Pavel ignored China’s repeated attempts to dissuade him and our repeated representations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning told reporters.
“He has persisted in stepping on China’s red line, seriously interfering in China’s domestic affairs and hurting the feelings of the Chinese people,” she added.
Beijing views any official exchanges with Taiwan as an affront to its sovereignty.
It regularly criticises visits by foreign lawmakers to the island, but a call between a head of state and Ms Tsai is seen as graver.
“Before his election, Pavel publicly stated that the ‘one-China’ principle should be respected, yet now he has gone back on his words,” Ms Mao said.
“China once again urges the Czech Republic to... take immediate and effective measures to eliminate the negative impact of this incident and avoid irreparable damage to China-Czech relations.”
During the 15-minute telephone call, Mr Pavel and Ms Tsai stressed the Czech Republic and Taiwan’s shared values of freedom, democracy and human rights.
Mr Pavel also said he hoped to meet Ms Tsai in the future.
Most countries avoid high-level public interactions with Taiwan and its president, not wishing to provoke China, the world’s second-largest economy. In 2016, then United States President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone with Ms Tsai shortly after winning the election, setting off a storm of protest from Beijing.
President Tsai said she hoped that under Mr Pavel’s leadership, the Czech Republic would continue to cooperate with Taiwan to promote a close partnership and that she hoped to stay in touch with him.
“Bilateral interaction between Taiwan and the Czech Republic is close and good,” her office summarised Ms Tsai as having said.
Mr Pavel, a former army chief and high Nato official who won the Czech presidential election on Saturday, said on Twitter that the two sides “share the values of freedom, democracy and human rights”.
He will take office in early March, replacing President Milos Zeman, who is known for his pro-Beijing stance.
Mr Zeman spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier in January and they reaffirmed their “personal friendly” relationship, according to a readout of their call from Mr Zeman’s office.
Despite having no official diplomatic ties, the Czech Republic and Taiwan have moved closer as Beijing ratchets up military threats against the island and Taipei seeks new friends in Eastern and Central Europe.
The centre-right Czech government has said it wants to deepen cooperation with democratic allies in the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan, and has also been seeking a “revision” of ties with China.
In 2020, the head of the Czech Senate visited Taiwan and declared himself to be Taiwanese during a speech in Taiwan’s Parliament, channelling the late US president John F. Kennedy’s defiance of communism in Berlin in 1963. REUTERS